This report completes the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s review of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 (Vic) (VOCAA) as required in response to both the first and supplementary terms of reference provided by the Attorney-General on 22 December 2016, and 7 July 2017, respectively.
The first terms of reference respond to Recommendation 106 of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence. Fundamentally, the first terms of reference ask the Commission to consider what changes should be made to the VOCAA to better assist family violence victims rebuild their lives and recover. As part of this, the first terms of reference at matter three ask the Commission to consider the requirement to notify a perpetrator, especially where the act of violence has not been reported to police or no charges have been laid, or the prosecution is discontinued or the person is acquitted.
The supplementary terms of reference ask the Commission to expand its review to consider the operation and effectiveness of the VOCAA and the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) for all crime victims. This was a significant expansion of the scope of the first terms of reference.
A number of outcomes and objectives for any state-funded financial assistance scheme are identified in the supplementary terms of reference (reference objectives). The supplementary terms of reference ask the Commission at matter eight to consider whether any processes, procedures or requirements under the VOCAA cause unnecessary delay to the provision of assistance to victims of crime. In considering this question, the supplementary terms of reference ask the Commission to consider whether there are other models that would more effectively deliver assistance, for example an administrative or quasi-administrative model. Plainly, consideration of whether delay is ‘unnecessary’ involves reference to the whole of the VOCAA to identify provisions or procedures which might bear upon or cause delay, and reference to legislation or processes in other jurisdictions in which the outcome is more timely. The supplementary terms of reference also expand the initial terms of reference by asking whether ‘it is appropriate in certain circumstances (as is currently the case) for alleged perpetrators of a crime to be notified of applications to VOCAT or to be called to give evidence’.
The Commission published a consultation paper on the first terms of reference in June 2017. A supplementary consultation paper on the further terms of reference was published in August 2017. The consultation papers were based on preliminary consultation meetings with key stakeholders, as well as the Commission’s own analysis of the current law and research. In response to both consultation papers 60 written submissions were received.
Between August and November 2017 consultation meetings were conducted in Melbourne and throughout regional Victoria with key stakeholders, interested organisations and individuals including: the judiciary; victim support and advocacy organisations (government and non-government); family violence support and advocacy organisations; government departments; legal services and key academics, to examine the issues raised in the consultation papers, seek views on the questions posed and to test options for reform.
The views expressed by stakeholders in consultation meetings and the written submissions received, as well as the Commission’s own further research, have informed development of the recommendations and the preparation of this report. The Commission warmly acknowledges these contributions to law reform.
This report and the Commission’s conclusions address both the technical issues in relation to the existing Act and scheme, including in relation to the role of alleged perpetrators, and also the broader question of the appropriate model. The Commission has adopted a holistic approach to reform proposals, with victims’ needs at the centre of the Commission’s process and recommendations.